Someone must have cornered a young Denny Flaherty and told him that being grateful for what you have and nice to others goes a long way in this world.|
He got the message.
"Just another one of the great things to happen in my life,'' Flaherty said after learning he had been selected to serve as grand marshal of Grand Parade XXIX, set for March 15.
Grand Parade, billed as the only interstate St. Patrick's Day Parade in the United States, is the centerpiece of the local celebration hosted by the St. Patrick Society, Quad-Cities.
"I'm shocked to be chosen, but you cannot feel any more honored than I feel. I have a chance to lead a parade near to my heart and heritage, a parade that two men I respected greatly, Father James Conroy and Father Robert Lee, have led.''
Married 45 years to Patty Anne, Flaherty is a father of three and grandfather of three. A Marine, Flaherty served two tours in Vietnam, then worked 34 years as a purchasing agent locally with two companies.
Flaherty is deep in his faith and has dedicated his life to giving back. Entrenched for decades as a do-it-all servant at Davenport's St. Anthony's Catholic Church, he also has long served as an advocate for veterans in Iowa and Illinois. Not a day passes that Flaherty does not serve a meal to those in need at the widely known McAnthony's window at his church or help a veteran in need.
The need to give back, a modest Flaherty said, was instilled in him long ago by his mother and father.
"I never knew we weren't rich,'' he said of his days growing up in Davenport. "My father worked hard, allowed us to attend Catholic schools, made sure we were fed and had a roof over our heads. He taught us that if we had something, no matter what it was, it could be shared. There was always room for someone at my mother's table and in our home. I guess that has stuck with me. I guess it's why I take pride in telling people we served over 18,000 meals last year at McAnthony's and distributed 1,800 food baskets."
At 11 a.m. March 14, the St. Patrick Society will host the annual Gathering of the Clan Luncheon at the Davenport RiverCenter. There, Flaherty will be introduced as the grand marshal of Grand Parade XXIX. He said the best part of the two-day celebration of his heritage will be sharing it with his family.
"Great wife, great daughters and three amazing grandsons,'' Flaherty said. "Two grandsons will ride with me in the parade, but the third -- a newborn -- will enjoy it with his mom and have to catch it on video someday. I'm looking forward to it.''
In addition to having his family share his big day, Flaherty is hoping two big influences on his life can be part of the celebration.
"Ed Froehlich (Bix 7 race director) and David Woods (Scott County Veterans service officer) are amazing men,'' Flaherty said. "My wife and I have volunteered for the Bix for over 25 years. People volunteer for the Bix because Ed makes them feel wanted and appreciates every volunteer's contribution. And David -- what a great job he does for vets in Scott County. I see it firsthand all the work he does. He gets it. Society might not get it sometimes, but those two do.''
That society Flaherty spoke of has -- with some tweaking -- potential.
"We are getting better at serving our veterans, but there is still a long road to travel to get where we need to be,'' he said. "And the poor -- we keep throwing buckets of money out there toward helping them, but it's not going in the right direction. People care; they really do. There are so many caring souls. I just hope they get it figured out.''
Like Denny Flaherty has.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at 309-757-8388 or Jmarx@qconline.com.
Rock island, IL Details
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